In an effort to be organized, efficient and effective, I’ve made TODO lists for myself all my life…or as long as I can remember. But something bothers me about my TODO lists. I don’t like them. And they certainly are not effective. It doesn’t take long for me to stop using TODO lists even after I have read the best motivational books about how to get and stay organized. I thought It was just loser me that didn’t have enough will power and self control to make a TODO list work. But I discovered something else. I think I might have a clue about why TODO lists don’t work for me.
A TODO list is nothing more than Past-me trying to control me, Present-me, as if I am not capable of making rational decisions about projects and priorities. I am wiser than Past-me in all likelihood…if only by the smallest margin, since I have the benefit of something Past-me couldn’t see…the Present.
All the tasks that Past-me was too tired, lazy or busy to accomplish, get heaped on me in the form the TODO list. And so I feel the pressure placed on me by Past-me before he died.
Yes, Past-me died, and before he did, he saw fit to send me a little note, telling me what to do. Perhaps he included a little box beside each item to entice me to feel the satisfaction of putting a check-mark there. I know instinctively that I cannot place the check-mark in the box unless I have completely finished the task which he planned for me. And so, in his dying moments, past-me leaves his final wish(es)…a last request, or two, or three or twenty.
How can I refuse a last request? But I resent it and I have my own ideas of what I need to be doing right now. Or maybe I do have some free time and I just don’t feel like doing what Past-me wants me to do. So this I simply pass off to Future-me. And so the cycle continues.
I am a fickle person. Sometimes I will complete a task. Sometimes I will get tired of a task on a list and simply cross it off. Sometimes I have energy and complete much. Sometimes I will simply add to the list in an attempt to be thorough as if the items on a TODO list make up a collection of prized objects which need to be collected, preserved and cataloged. Each moment can bring a different me.
What is the solution?
One me that I admire above all the rest is the me that does his best while the day persists and thinks enough of me (his future-me) to leave a record of his life with no strings attached.
The most effective lists I have ever kept and felt good about are lists I like to call DIDDO lists. (Pronounced like ditto, except with D’s, but mean did do). Instead of recording a list of what needs to be done. I record what I have done. It helps me because I can see what I’ve accomplished in a given day or week and when Future-me looks at the list, it serves to inspire him to do his best and see what he can accomplish. It also provides ideas about continuing projects (what I’ve accomplished, where I left off) without telling Future-me what to do.
So that’s it…why I don’t like TODO lists. When I am tempted to tell Future-me what to do. I just stop and think, “How do I feel when Past-me tells me what to do.” And instead of sending a check list to the future, I get busy and do something in the present and make a record of it.
A Message from Future-me, the Wisest of the Three:
Make hay while the sun shines.
Be it toward whatever the heart is inclined,
But leave an accounting of how you spent your time,
That your life be example of how to spend mine.
Leave not fathers burdens on shoulders of sons,
that I too not burden generations with things undone.
Leave me your life history, however brief,
Of your opportunities, your triumphs and your grief,
That I may choose my own path as lief,
And keep from becoming of tomorrow a thief.